As a full time assistant on the pharmacy counter in the Swan Centre’s Boots branch, Dominic Smith, is a familiar face to most Eastleigh townsfolk.
However many would be surprised to discover he is one of growing number of people who despite being in full time work have fallen into the poverty trap.
These are people, whose weekly income fails to cover basic cost of living expenditure, leaving them unable to save for the future and working merely to exist – unable to improve their circumstances.
Although Dominic is teetotal and a non-smoker he has been forced to seek assistance in order to meet his living costs.
The council have told him that although his £246 weekly wage is more than the National Minimum Wage, it is still less than the law says he needs to live on and he will receive £87 a month housing benefit towards the cost of paying the £450 monthly rent he owes on his 1 bed roomed flat to local social landlord Swaythling Housing.
The rent on his tiny flat is at market value so there is little chance of finding anything cheaper.
“The £450 a month rent does not include my utility bills, foods and council tax, I always have to keep a careful eye on my bank account and I’m never able to really relax and feel secure. Before the help I’ve received from the council I was falling behind on my rent, running out of money each month. While Boots are indeed paying me above the above the minimum wage, the fact that the council are saying this is below what the law says I need to live on, to me, raises a lot of questions about how low the government have set the minimum wage and the lack of affordable housing.”
Although claimants are often stereo typed as idle scroungers, latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that there over 6,000 people in Eastleigh who like Dominic, are squeezed by low incomes and high living costs and have to claim some type of benefit to make ends meet.
Are you in work and struggling with basic living costs? What do you think the Government or Council should do to help?